Superhero teams can be quite contentious for both members within the fictional group and the flesh and blood readers who follow their exploits from month to month. For fans, a certain brand of animosity can brew due to favorite heroes either being sidelined or completely omitted from story arcs. Despite the fact that these choices often play in the creative teams’ larger narrative, it can sometimes feel like a personal slight, as silly as it may seem. But some chinks in the armor aren’t from characters not being present. Sometimes, shortcomings are due to characters who are accounted for…especially when you don’t want them.
Animosity toward heroes can stem from the least likely of places. While some less than desirable characters rely on some sort of gimmick that savvy comic readers can see won’t age well a mile away. Some of this harboring hatred can also be lofted at much beloved characters to the general non-comic consuming public, but are actually terrible human beings (or mutants or aliens or whatever). No matter the reason, readers don’t always see eye to eye regarding members of superhero teams especially when those teams cast a massive net like ever-growing roster of The Avengers.
Everyone loves a good redemption story. Anytime a villain can find his way back to the straight and narrow, be it through tragedy or inspiration, it’s always welcomed. But in the case of Pietro Maximoff (better known as Quicksilver), we don’t care what side of the fence they fall on, but it’d be nice if they weren’t so…touchy-feely with their sibling.
Some versions of the character have been well-received (Quicksilver is best part of the most recent X-Men films), but his base incarnation is a bit cringe-worthy. Pietro’s relationship with his sister Wanda is borderline inappropriate, and in The Ultimate Universe it is explicitly gross. It’s as if the creators extrapolated a possibly misread notion from Earth-616 and ran with it. What’s worse is that when Quicksilver isn’t creepy, he’s whiny. He was pretty awesome in “Age of Apocalypse,” though. So he has that going for him…which is nice.
14. JESSICA JONES
Okay before you guys freak out, yes, Jessica Jones is an amazing character. Brian Michael Bendis’ 28-issue run of Alias is a masterpiece of graphic storytelling and a compelling crime noir narrative. Now, with that being said, she does not belong in The Avengers.
What makes Jessica Jones such a compelling figure is her faults and how she confronts them. She’s arguably one of the best developed superheroes in the Marvel pantheon and she deserves better than being shoved into spandex. Jessica Jones is a character based on deconstruction. She should be the antithesis to the dogmatic manner in which we view superheroes. The fact that she used to play for the team and left, no matter what her reasons were, make her special sort of character we don’t get enough of. Slipping back into a costume should not be cathartic for her or the reader.
13. AGENT VENOM
Venom has always been a character who is style over substance, and luckily there have been instances where the substance is good enough to keep up with the style. Over the last several years the Venom Symbiote has infected a swarm of hosts, but the most notable besides Peter Parker and Eddie Brock, is Flash Thompson.
That’s right, a parasitic alien lifeform finds a host in the lamest school bully character Marvel Comics has ever trotted out for nerds to hate. Flash Thompson inherited the symbiote after losing his legs and became a weapon for the military. This certainly sounds like a cool idea for a Venom story, and it would be if Flash wasn’t as boring as his uninspired moniker, Agent Venom, suggests. With a more charismatic person in the military-style suit, Agent Venom may have worked like gangbusters.
Why does Marvel feel the need to insert feline and/or canine characters into their superhero teams? Look, we’re not complaining, but it is a pretty strange motif. When the inclusion of one of these characters works, we get interesting heroes like Wolfsbane from The New Mutants. When they don’t work, we get Feral from X-Force. But sometimes we get a character who is utterly baffling like the ne’er-do-well Avenger Tigra.
With a goofy backstory filled with sorcery and cat people, at best Tigra feels like she is a lost ThunderCat who wandered into Marvel Comics and got trapped there, much to readers’ chagrin. At worst, Tigra is nothing more than a character that has feels like she was designed to be fetishized, with her practically non-existent costume and voluptuous figure. Either could be forgiven if there weren’t better versions of this character out there.
11. ANT-MAN (HANK PYM)
Let’s not stand on ceremony here: Hank Pym is a jerk. In the Earth-616 continuity (Marvel Comics primary universe) Pym kidnapped The Wasp, forced her to marry him, and physically assaulted her. Now, to be fair, Pym was in the throes of a schizophrenic breakdown, but does that really excuse his behavior (nope)? It’s a debate many comic fans have had and one that we aren’t going to get into right now (discuss among yourselves).
But we’d be remiss not to mention that Pym was also abusive to the love of his life in the Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610) by way of dousing her with insecticide during a drug-induced frenzy (what can we say, Mark Millar knows how to write unlikable characters). Pym’s bad behavior, coupled with the fact that Scott Lang is arguably a cooler Ant-Man, make the troubled genius easily detestable.
The massive disdain for the character Rage isn’t exactly a secret, but how silly of a character he is cannot be said enough. Rage first popped up The Avengers issue #326 and was created by legendary writer Larry Hama (Wolverine) and artist Paul Ryan (The Phantom). The character was definitely a product of the early ‘90s in both style and tone, opting for grandiose dialogue and a ridiculous backstory (spoiler: toxic waste played a part) instead of something more thoughtful.
Characters who made debuted in comics from the late ‘80s or early ‘90s either evolved or died, but somehow Rage has managed to maintain the sleeveless leather jacket and luchador mask look for over 25 years. Honestly, we’re not even mad. That’s a pretty amazing feat. We just wish it was cool.
The ‘90s were a strange time for comic books. A huge bubble in sales and popularity was swelling; Comic publishers were diving headlong into variant covers and gimmicky limited editions issues (something they still struggle with); and a cavalcade of new and “edgy” characters were getting introduced in new ongoing series, many of which did not last very long. One of the characters who escaped the ‘90s book was Darkhawk, a character who looks cool, but feels like a parody you’d see in an issue of The Tick or the Flaming Carrot.
Darkhawk’s backstory is strange enough, but feels familiar…seeing as how it feels ripped off from tons of ‘80s cyberpunk manga books. This could almost be forgiven if Darkhawk didn’t have this whole “print me on black T-shirts and sell me because I’m cool” vibe going on. Somehow he out-Spawned Spawn before Spawn was even a thing. Bravo.
Leading up to the massive success of Fox’s 2016 film Deadpool, the Merc with the Mouth had been shoved in every nook and cranny of the Marvel Universe to the point of ad nauseam. Any comic fan worth their salt will tell you that Deadpool is a character who should be used sparingly even in his own series (let’s be honest: Emily Preston was the best part about the Posehn/Duggan run).
But we don’t need what is essentially the Marvel equivalent to Bugs Bunny mudding up an Avengers title. Unlike how Deadpool was utilized in Uncanny X-Force (basically a blunt instrument who rattled off the occasional one-liner and then went back to being a team player) when he popped up Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” launch he was immediately annoying…to both his teammates and the reader.
Sometimes heroes can be too powerful. It’s true. And unless over-powered characters are handled with care and creativity, they run the risk of becoming boring. However, it is possible to overcorrect this measure. Case in point: The Sentry, a character who started out as a shlubby nobody who suddenly remembered he was an influential superhero until his story was retooled into a metanarrative.
We are well aware that comics can get pretty weird. The medium replies on retcons, time travel, and alternate universes like no other, but sometimes things can get a little squirrely. What could have been a pretty cool follow up that exists outside the greater continuity of The Avengers (or New Avengers in this case) can quickly bog down an established series, which is precisely what The Sentry did. Some characters need to stay outside the box.
6. U.S. AGENT
If you were to dump month-to-month comic book readers and professional wrestling fans into a Venn diagram, the overlap would be quite significant. This isn’t as big of a broad stroke as one might think. What drives both of these forms of entertainment is ongoing soapy drama, punctuated with huge face-to-face conflicts between heroes and villains and the notion of legacy. Because of this connection, a character like John F. Walker would be a great conduit between these two worlds.
But the issue is Walker (who first appeared as the supervillain Super-Patriot) does very little as a character with his professional wrestling background in the long run. In fact, after he became the hero U.S. Agent, he was nothing more than a stand-in for Captain America, despite being a pragmatic figure. He’s a character who never really outgrew being a heel, so to speak.
5. WONDER MAN
Wonder Man is a character who is ripe with interesting backstory material on his own. This guy needed the Grant Morrison Animal Man treatment like nobody’s business. He’s the industrial foil to Tony Stark and has been killed and resurrected more times than Jean Grey, but somehow when he’s part a team, be it The Avengers or The Defenders, he isn’t given a huge opportunity to shine.
Simon Williams is instantly recognizable to comic fans, but one must wonder why the MCU hasn’t given him a proper inclusion in their cinematic pantheon. Things wouldn’t be so bad on the ape if the Wonder Man wasn’t just a disembodied consciousness floating from body to body in order to have an ad hoc plot device that becomes pretty silly after a while, even by comic book standards.
4. MARVEL BOY
In 2000, Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones created a six-issue miniseries under the Marvel Knights imprint called Marvel Boy. The series to the tale of Noh-Varr, a young Kree explorer who gets entangled with a sentient virus on Earth, battles Doctor Midas, and is eventually locked up in a seemingly inescapable prison by S.H.I.E.L.D. It was a series that was full of big ideas, youth in revolt, and biting social commentary.
Sadly, teenage angst and a punk rock attitude has a shelf life in comic books. Marvel Boy eventually expunged his hopes of laying waste to humanity on Earth and rebuilding the Kree Empire. And while this notion isn’t freezable for the Marvel Universe in the long run, it did give Noh-Varr a fantastic driving force as a member of both the Young and the Dark iterations of The Avengers.
Is there such a thing as being too on the nose with your name in comic books? We say there might be. Sure there’s Batman, who dresses like a bat, and there’s Spider-Man, who has webs and can stick to walls, but sometime superhero names are so ridiculously bad that they sound like they’re from some sort of parody rather than the actual subject getting satirized.
Enter Swordsman! A character who was originally introduced as a foil to Hawkeye (who thankfully isn’t called Arrowguy), but became an Avenger…until he wasn’t! Oh, that rascally Swordsman. While the character never got enough page time to really make a lasting impression on many fans of The Avengers, his mere existence feels like a slight against the notion of comic books being seen high art. Swordsman is a bit of an embarrassment from a foregone era.
2. CAPTAIN BRITAIN
To be completely clear, Captain Britain has had some great moments in the annals of comic history. Alan Moore and Alan Davis set the tone for the character. And Chris Claremont further explored what it means to be the British equivalent of Captain America in his lauded Excalibur run.
But the thing with Brian Braddock is he has left comic readers wondering, “what have you done for me lately?” and “can we please update the costume?” Captain Britain has become one of those (Secret) Avengers that we often forget even exists. It takes a moment like his appearance in Uncanny X-Force during which he puts Fantomex on trial for murder or just a flashback with his sister Psylocke to gets to recall he’s even a thing in the first place. Maybe hate isn’t the right emotion for Captain Britain. Perhaps, pity would be more appropriate.
1. IRON MAN
Tony Stark is an egotistical, self-centered, narcissistic, holier than thou, self-loathing, cocky jerk who has deserved myriad comeuppance in both his comic book incarnation and the version portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. we see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, don’t get us wrong, Stark is a genius. There’s no denying his skills as a master engineer or his sheer intellect. But if it were not for his affluence, would anyone think to put him at the head to The Avengers’ table?
Look, Tony has a heart (so to speak) somewhere in that chest of his, but his obnoxious “I told you so” attitude almost makes you want to root against him, even when he’s right. It’s hard not to want Captain America knock his block off every time Tony shares a panel with him. They guy just has a punchable face. Maybe it’s the goatee.
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